previews\ May 21, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Alone In the Dark - WII - Preview

It started with a car crash – followed by several more as my ineffective driving skills sent the vehicle into enormous potholes, hills of torn up concrete, and other automobiles. Edward Carnby, the star of the original Alone in the Dark, was behind the wheel and is back for another night of terror. As the one in control of his fate, I tilted the Wii remote, expecting to steer the car properly as so many games have taught us. I pushed the thumbstick, looking for a greater degree of controllability. But I kept on crashing.

"You know you have to use the Nunchuk too," remarked one of the onlookers. "Hold 'em at 2 and 10-O'-clock, like you would a real steering wheel."

Actually I didn't know that. After holding the controllers as described, my vehicle was finally drivable. I still crashed of course – this scenario was no cakewalk – but at least now I could do it with precision.

The cause of this deadly joy ride is linked to an unknown force; a fissure that breaks through walls, roads, and entire buildings without remorse. It appears to be unstoppable, and is completely capable of turning your vehicle (and New York City) upside down. Once inside the world of Alone in the Dark, the survival/horror sequel for Wii, PS2, PS3, PC and Xbox 360, players will discover that this force is just one of many mysteries they'll have to unravel – and one of many enemies that will haunt them throughout the game.

Next we were onto the on-foot missions, where mutated (or are they possessed?) humans attack relentlessly. Humans transform after being consumed by the fissure, with visible marks displayed all over their bodies. They can be shot, struck with household items (chairs, lamps, brooms, and virtually anything else you can grab), and sliced up with an axe. But only one thing will stop them from coming: fire. Fire is an essential part of Alone in the Dark, spreading normally across any flammable object or surface. When used against an enemy, fire turns the enemy to ash instantly and disappears in a puff of smoke. It's an unusual effect that you'll never see in the real world – not on this planet, at least. But it adds to the eerie sense of this supernatural game, and will almost certainly be a part of the greater mystery overshadowing New York City.

Atari also let us check out a basic puzzle where Edward has to get through an area that is blocked by a few large crates. The crates are too large to break or lift by hand. But if you look around, there's a forklift just waiting to be utilized. Hop in and get to work. As before, the remote and Nunchuk are used together like a steering wheel. The puzzle itself is very easy, but the forklift's controls were tough. Its tight movement required subtle reactions, and with two controllers being used to form one steering wheel, it took a little practice.

As with any next-gen game, the graphics are most realistic on Xbox 360 (and presumably PS3, but that version wasn't yet playable). However, unlike the majority of third-party Wii titles, you will find beauty in this edition of Alone in the Dark as well. The demo used an unusual blur, almost a haziness that helped smooth out a lot of the backgrounds. Their detail was solid; when driving through New York, the game was pretty impressive. The frame rate had a couple of jerks, but there's still time to even that out. In its current form, Wii owners definitely have something to look forward to.

One of the key factors in all versions of Alone in the Dark is the series' new emphasis on a TV-style presentation. Designed like a DVD box set of a TV series, Alone in the Dark's "episodes" (levels with multiple missions, story sequences, and cliffhanger endings) can be played in any order. Want to start the game from the very end? Go for it. Want to start from the middle? You can do that too. The catch is that you won't unveil every part of the story – or get a crack at the ending – without completing a specific number of missions within each episode first. To keep players up-to-date on the story (and further enhance the TV presentation), each episode will deliver a snazzy "Previously on Alone in the Dark" intro, featuring a quick compilation of the previous episode's developments.

Set for release on June 24, Alone in the Dark could be the title that ensures gamers spend another summer in doors. Better go outside and experience the sun's deadly rays while you got the chance.

Stay with us for more in the coming weeks, and be sure to hit the links below for the rest of our Alone in the Dark event coverage.

Alone in the Dark Event Coverage:

Xbox 360 Preview

Hands-On Presentation With Nour Polloni

A Horrific Conversation with Alone in the Dark Game Analyst Andre Bermudez


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